Flying High Reviews

  • Dec 03, 2015

    In the late '40s, theater critic Eric Bentley wrote a book called In Search of Theater. Bentley was most interested in cutting-edge theater and his preferences were decidedly more European. His praise is almost entirely centered on European theater, he had nothing but contempt for American artists like Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, and still more loathing for popular American musical theater. The only American artist that met his approval in his worldwide search for theatrical greatness was Bert Lahr in the revue Burlesque, which was running on Broadway in the late '40s. This was more than ten years before Lahr performed in the American premiere of Waiting for Godot, a play much more suited to Bentley's mentality. The material in Burlesque was strictly knockabout comedy. But Bentley saw something essentially human and tragic and hilarious in Lahr's performance that made him rise above mediocre material. Naturally, most of us know Lahr from his brilliant performance as The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. That movie uses his talents optimally. You've seen it. You don't need me to tell you. Well, in 1930, he was in a big hit on Broadway called "Flying High," and it was made into a movie in 1931. This movie is challenged by a terrible script, implausible plot, indifferent directing and general all around hackery. It needs Lahr to lift it out of mediocrity by virtue of his performing genius. He doesn't get there. His comedy looks gimmicky and labored, leaning on catchphrases and silly noises. He looks like a second-rate Curly Howard. There may have been a way to adapt this movie from the stage play, in the hands of talented writers and a smart director. The movie was produced by George White, the legendary Broadway producer. He made a run at making movies from his more successful Broadway endeavors, and never really succeeded. He seemed to think he could just film what made his stage shows a hit, and they would work. He clearly didn't appreciate the differences between two very different forms of art. It's especially painful to watch Pat O'Brien in this movie right after having watched him in The Front Page. He made these two movies in the same year, along with five other movies. Such was the life of a Hollywood contract player. You might get a meaty role in one of the most brilliant scripts ever written, or you might get a lame secondary lead in a stinker, and much more likely the latter.

    In the late '40s, theater critic Eric Bentley wrote a book called In Search of Theater. Bentley was most interested in cutting-edge theater and his preferences were decidedly more European. His praise is almost entirely centered on European theater, he had nothing but contempt for American artists like Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, and still more loathing for popular American musical theater. The only American artist that met his approval in his worldwide search for theatrical greatness was Bert Lahr in the revue Burlesque, which was running on Broadway in the late '40s. This was more than ten years before Lahr performed in the American premiere of Waiting for Godot, a play much more suited to Bentley's mentality. The material in Burlesque was strictly knockabout comedy. But Bentley saw something essentially human and tragic and hilarious in Lahr's performance that made him rise above mediocre material. Naturally, most of us know Lahr from his brilliant performance as The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. That movie uses his talents optimally. You've seen it. You don't need me to tell you. Well, in 1930, he was in a big hit on Broadway called "Flying High," and it was made into a movie in 1931. This movie is challenged by a terrible script, implausible plot, indifferent directing and general all around hackery. It needs Lahr to lift it out of mediocrity by virtue of his performing genius. He doesn't get there. His comedy looks gimmicky and labored, leaning on catchphrases and silly noises. He looks like a second-rate Curly Howard. There may have been a way to adapt this movie from the stage play, in the hands of talented writers and a smart director. The movie was produced by George White, the legendary Broadway producer. He made a run at making movies from his more successful Broadway endeavors, and never really succeeded. He seemed to think he could just film what made his stage shows a hit, and they would work. He clearly didn't appreciate the differences between two very different forms of art. It's especially painful to watch Pat O'Brien in this movie right after having watched him in The Front Page. He made these two movies in the same year, along with five other movies. Such was the life of a Hollywood contract player. You might get a meaty role in one of the most brilliant scripts ever written, or you might get a lame secondary lead in a stinker, and much more likely the latter.

  • Mar 06, 2015

    another MGM depression era pre-code musical

    another MGM depression era pre-code musical

  • Jun 27, 2014

    Enjoyable early musical, with Bert Lahr repeating his Broadway role and production numbers by Busby Berkeley.

    Enjoyable early musical, with Bert Lahr repeating his Broadway role and production numbers by Busby Berkeley.